Durell Godfrey

Durell Godfrey
Durell Godfrey

By Mara Certic

The photographer and illustrator has just finished working on a new coloring book for people of all ages. She spoke about her inspiration for “Color Me Cluttered.”

How did you get the inspiration to do this?

I was inspired by an article in The New York Times in March about the Scottish woman who does the “Secret Garden.” Someone pointed it out to me, and said they said you draw, Durell. And it was a eureka moment for me. I went home and got in touch with a woman for whom I’ve done spot illustrations. I said I could do that. I had a drawing that I had done as an original sketch and I sent it to her and she got back to me and said, How soon can you do 60? I work for a weekly paper, and I used to work for magazines. I said how soon do you need it?

Here on the East End most people recognize your photography work with The East Hampton Star. What illustration work have you done?

In 1970s I worked for Glamour magazine as an illustrator for their “how to do anything better guide.” I’d show people how to make a bed, how to do a handstand, that sort of thing. I can explain in a drawing how to do a thing—it’s just a knack. If I was drawing the bedroom of the reader—I would draw the room, and put things on the wall, or a cat on the bed. It was fun because I got to know the girl. I would put myself in, my boyfriend in. I was already used to seeing things, putting it down on paper with a confident line. When I was in high school, my mother and father, as presents for people, encouraged me to draw their house. If we would go somewhere, I would remember what the house looked like, remember the little details and then draw the host a picture. Drawing something that’s sparse is really dull. So I was drawn to the mess. It made it more fun, and more personal. If their cup was on the table, it was in the picture; the painting over the couch was in the drawing. I got to be doing it more and more and more, and that’s where I really got the training of looking and seeing and remembering.

Are the pages in this book things that you’ve seen and remembered over the years?

Of course! One page is my office, for example, when I was in the middle of this project. There are papers everywhere, and I included the ink that I use. Another page is my parents’ living room when I was growing up in the 1960s. We had these trays that I included, and I put the mail in, too. One page is the first apartment I ever lived in—this tiny little place on Pinkney Street in Boston. I knew how to draw it because I’d drawn it before; when I first lived there I drew a picture of it to send to my mother, so she could see what it looked like. Another page, though, is a yard sale I’d like to go to.

What are some of the benefits of coloring?

They say it’s very meditative—I went into a zone when I was drawing this. Many people say they get their best ideas in the shower, or when they’re playing golf. I think, like that, this is a way to let your mind wander in a creative way. But at the same time, you get to have a conversation with someone. You get to make a decision about their wallpaper, or whether or not they have red shoes. Nobody’s who’s marketing a coloring book has done what used to be called “genre paintings,” which means a slice of life, rather than a character with big feet no one cares about.

Who exactly is this marketed for?

I’m really not sure. The market exists, I know that because I saw a niche and filled it—I trusted the publisher who said that there would be a place for this on the table of coloring books. I suppose the market’s doodlers, perhaps people who get itchy when they knit.

“Color Me Cluttered” comes out on December 8, and will be available locally at Canio’s, the Golden Eagle, BookHampton, the Parrish Art Museum, and at Amazon.